Residents accept their living situation to stay happy: study

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To stay happy, seniors in residential care exercise an adaptive technique that allows them to accept that their situation cannot be changed, a new study shows.

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia compared levels of life satisfaction among adults over age 65 living in residential care with older adults still living on their own. The researchers found that once adults moved into facilities, their ability to accept their living situation became as important as feeling in control, in terms of maintaining overall happiness.

Control has two components, the researchers pointed out. The first is primary control, which relates to the capacity to make changes to the environment to fit one's desires or needs. This mainly applies to adults living independently. Secondary control refers to cognitive changes within a person to adapt to his/her environment. The two parts complement each other; as primary control is lost when adults move into healthcare facilities, secondary control takes over to help them accept the life changes.

"In order to protect the well-being of older individuals, adaptation involves both a sense of control and the active acceptance of what cannot be changed,” the researchers concluded. “Primary and secondary perceived control may predict satisfaction with comparable strength depending on the older person's situation. Acceptance takes more of a prime position in low control situations."

The study appears online in Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies.

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